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Suggs provides inspiration for offense


Suggs provides inspiration for offense

When nothing was seemingly going right for the Ravens’ struggling offense, it was linebacker Terrell Suggs who gave them the inspiration.

In a subtle way, Suggs, playing in just his second game of the season since coming back from an Achilles tear, helped the offense overcome a late deficit to beat the Cleveland Browns 25-15 on the road.

“I remember Terrell Suggs sitting over there saying, ‘We’ll hold them from scoring touchdowns, you guys go ahead and put a drive together and let’s win this game,” said running back Ray Rice, who had a season-high 25 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. “Just hearing from a guy who battled through that kind of injury, we owe it to him, we owe it to ourselves, we out it to the organization.”

This may not have exactly how the Ravens (6-2) envisioned coming out of the bye week as the hurry-up offense went into hibernation again.

The Ravens took a 14-point lead in the first quarter with Rice getting in from eight yards and rookie Bernard Pierce sprinting in on a third-down play from 11 yards out for his first touchdown as a pro.

But quarterback Joe Flacco continued to struggle away from home, going 15-for-24 for just 153 yards and one touchdown.

His scoring pass of 19 yards to Torrey Smith, however, was the game-winner. The Ravens had fallen behind 15-14 because of five field goals by Browns kicker Phil Dawson, but Flacco led them on a nine-play, 81-yard drive.

Smith's catch, pivot and run was the first big play in the passing game for Baltimore. Then Flacco completed a two-point conversion to Anquan Boldin and Justin Tucker added a late field goal for the final margin. 

“We did a good job mixing it up a little bit in the first quarter,” said Flacco, who is unbeaten in 10 career games vs. Cleveland. The last time Baltimore lost to this team was 2007, the season before Flacco’s rookie season and John Harbaugh’s arrival as coach. “After (the first quarter) … those guys did a good job of creating some negative plays for us. It was tough to convert.”

The Ravens had 11 first downs to begin the game but Flacco couldn’t engineer his team to another one until late in the fourth.

Even though the Browns were trailing from the start, they got back in it by sticking with rookie running back Trent Richardson, who had just 47 yards on 14 carries in a 23-16 loss to Baltimore in Week 4.

Richardson compiled 76 of his 105 yards in the first half as Cleveland was able to  control the clock and wear out a defense that already came in short-handed.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee sat out because of a thing injury and tackle Haloti Ngata was limited by a sore shoulder. But the Ravens, who had allowed an average of 207 rushing yards per game in the last three games, responded.

The Browns gained 116 overall, marking a significant improvement for a defense that was No. 2 in the NFL against the run a season ago when it held teams to less than 100.

Rice wasn’t as effective after the first quarter, but Baltimore didn’t go away from him like they did in past weeks.

He had 10 carries above his season average of 15. The hard-fought victory erased the bad taste of a 43-13 drubbing the Ravens took at the Houston Texans going into the bye week.

“It’s great to come on the road, not do anything fancy, and figure out a way to win,” Rice said.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."


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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice


Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”